News Releases

Murray Announces Senate Passage of Breakthrough Mental Health Parity Legislation

Sep 19 2007

Bill will mandate that group health insurance plans provide mental health care treatment at the same rates as for physical ailments

(Washington, D.C.) –U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today announced that landmark legislation that will bring mental health insurance coverage to more Americans passed the U.S. Senate. The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007, which will help ensure that Americans who have health insurance for physical illnesses are provided with equivalent coverage for mental illness, passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Tuesday evening. In the Senate, Murray worked to guarantee that the bill does not preempt the already strong Washington state mental health parity laws.

"This bill sets a federal standard that will make mental health care coverage more equitable, accessible, and affordable," said Senator Murray. "It will apply a fair standard of care to millions of Americans who have faced denials and restrictions in getting the care they deserve. This is a great step forward for those who have sought mental health care but who have been crippled by high deductibles and co-payments. It will also benefit those who have been reluctant to seek care because of financial barriers."

Currently, despite the overwhelming number of Americans that suffer from mental illness, many health care plans place significant restrictions on mental health care as compared to medical or surgical care. 

This bill builds on the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 by requiring parity for mental health by group health insurance plans that serve more than 50 employees. This will mean that if a group health plan provides both medical benefits and mental care benefits the costs of both - including deductibles, co-payments, and out of pocket expenses- must be comparable. The plans must also provide parity for limits imposed on care including the frequency of treatment, number of visits, and days of coverage.

Senator Murray worked with the bill's authors Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) to ensure the bill did not in any way pre-empt the robust mental health parity laws currently being enforced in Washington state.